Sunday, December 28, 2008

SUIT FILED OVER POLICE ABUSE OF ORGANIC FOOD CO-OP

The Buckeye Institute's 1851 Center for Constitutional Law has taken legal action against the Ohio Department of Agriculture and the Lorain County Health Department for violating the constitutional rights of John and Jacqueline Stowers of LaGrange, Ohio. The Stowers operate an organic food cooperative called Manna Storehouse. ODA and Lorain County Health Department agents forcefully raided their home and unlawfully seized the family's personal food supply, cell phones and personal computers. The legal center seeks to halt future similar raids.

"The use of these police state tactics on a peaceful family is simply unacceptable," Buckeye Institute President David Hansen said. "Officers rushed into the Stowers' home with guns drawn and held the family - including ten young children - captive for six hours. This outrageous case of bureaucratic overreach must be addressed."

The Buckeye Institute argues the right to buy food directly from local farmers; distribute locally-grown food to neighbors; and pool resources to purchase food in bulk are rights that do not require a license. In addition, the right of peaceful citizens to be free from paramilitary police raids, searches and seizures is guaranteed under the constitution.

"The Stowers' constitutional rights were violated over grass-fed cattle, pastured chickens and pesticide-free produce," Buckeye Institute 1851 Center of Constitutional Law Director Maurice Thompson said. "Ohioans do not need a government permission slip to run a family farm and co-op, and should not be subjected to raids when they do not have one. This legal action will ensure the ODA understands and respects Ohioans' rights."

On the morning of December 1, 2008, law enforcement officers forcefully entered the Stowers' residence, without first announcing they were police or stating the purpose of the visit. With guns drawn, officers swiftly and immediately moved to the upstairs of the home, finding ten children in the middle of a home-schooling lesson. Officers then moved Jacqueline Stowers and her children to their living room where they were held for more than six hours.

There has never been a complaint filed against Manna Storehouse or the Stowers related to the quality or healthfulness of the food distributed through the co-op. The Buckeye Institute's legal center will defend the Stowers from any criminal charges related to the raid.

12 Comments:

At December 29, 2008 1:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many aspects of the story are troubling.
To begin with, how can any producer on the one hand claim to offer 'organic food', and on the other claim exemption from inspection because they are an unlicensed private entity? The term 'organic' implies that certain standards of accreditation have been recognized. It involves a rigorous process, including compliance with routine inspection of facilities and methods, evaluation of past uses of the property, as well as periodic soil analysis, etc. Offering as 'organic', food that has been produced by no accountable means on uncertified land, strikes of misrepresentation, at best, and precariously borders on the realm of fraud.

Another area of concern is the distribution of meats and dairy goods processed from facilities equally unaccountable to scrutiny. How it is that they are not in some violation of Ohio health statutes is amazing.
The Stowers have ventured well past 'family farm' or co-op, yet, fall somewhat short of achieving status of the intermediary food processors which must comply to state, FDA, and USDA regulation and inspection. They have found a loophole in the laws and are attempting to exploit it. Caveat emptor.

 
At December 29, 2008 3:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about this for one hell of a consumer protection clause?...



NON DISCLOSURE AGREEMENT,

Members agree that by joining Manna Storehouse you state that you are not an employee of any federal, state or local government agency. Any transaction, communication or observations by you and/or anyone with you cannot be reported or communicated in any way to any federal, state or local government agency; nor used in a court of law against Manna Storehouse or any member of the Stowers family.



LIABILITY WAIVER

Members voluntarily release, forever discharge, and agree to indemnify and hold harmless Manna Storehouse and any individual of the Stowers family including any property in connection with Manna Storehouse and any individual of the Stowers family from any and all claims for any damages to member, members persons, or members property.

Members agree to indemnify and hold harmless Manna Storehouse and any member of the Stowers family including any property in connection with Manna Storehouse and any member of the Stowers family from any responsibility from any transactions or spoken words, suggestions or assistance in any way regarding nutrition, health and healing.

Members acknowledge that they are completely responsible for any damages to anyone, including but not limited to children, friends, family acquaintances or individuals brought by the member.

 
At December 29, 2008 4:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Buckeye Institute? The same Buckeye Institute that filed a RICO action against ACORN in October?
The same Buckeye Institute that has been aligned with the Free Enterprise Coalition?
The same Buckeye Institute that has on staff RNC Platform/Steering Committee member and former Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell?--the same J. Kenneth Blackwell responsible for the purging of 133,000 Ohio voters, mostly Democratic, from the voter rolls in 2004?
Somehow me thinks there is a lot more to this story that isn't being told. It spews of Libertarian mischief making.

 
At December 29, 2008 6:05 AM, Anonymous Mairead said...

I don't think the NDA and waiver are evidence of anything besides caution. It's too easy to set up some group by joining under false pretences and then sandbagging them, as the memory of COINTELPRO should remind us all.

These "food co-op" people might well be scum who should be shut down soonest. But I can't imagine any justification for the cops to have played "Gestapo cowboy" the way they did.

 
At December 29, 2008 4:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seems to be a lot of confusion here, I'm ignorant of Ohio law on meat butchers, but in Mo. even if it's your own lifestock, before you can sell it for human consumption it must be slaughtered and packaged at a certified and inspected facility. Whether this would apply to a club or co-op where presumably you're paying only for costs I don't know and could be a matter of some dispute. I will say that trusting the FDA to protect you as a consumer is definitely foolhardy . I buy my beef from a neighbor who generally owns a hundred and fifty or so head at a time. They're allowed to graze on several hundred acres and they're supplemented with local hay and grain in the winter. A quarter beef costs a couple hundred dollars which works out to about two dollars a pound. It tastes so much better than supermarket stuff you wouldn't believe it and I don't have to worry about mad cow or insecticides or herbicides. I do have to worry if power goes out for more than a few days.
If you're trusting the FDA, read this " FDA Hid Names of Melamine Contaminated Infant Formula Products from the Public"
http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_15795.cfm

 
At December 29, 2008 4:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seems to be a lot of confusion here, I'm ignorant of Ohio law on meat butchers, but in Mo. even if it's your own lifestock, before you can sell it for human consumption it must be slaughtered and packaged at a certified and inspected facility. Whether this would apply to a club or co-op where presumably you're paying only for costs I don't know and could be a matter of some dispute. I will say that trusting the FDA to protect you as a consumer is definitely foolhardy . I buy my beef from a neighbor who generally owns a hundred and fifty or so head at a time. They're allowed to graze on several hundred acres and they're supplemented with local hay and grain in the winter. A quarter beef costs a couple hundred dollars which works out to about two dollars a pound. It tastes so much better than supermarket stuff you wouldn't believe it and I don't have to worry about mad cow or insecticides or herbicides. I do have to worry if power goes out for more than a few days.
If you're trusting the FDA, read this " FDA Hid Names of Melamine Contaminated Infant Formula Products from the Public"
http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_15795.cfm

 
At December 29, 2008 8:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As yet, we have no way of actually knowing that a
'Gestapo cowboy' raid occurred. Assertions to that effect originate from dubious sources. The Stowers have already demonstrated a propensity towards exaggeration, and, the Buckeye Institute is a right-wing activist organization with an agenda to serve.

As far as foolhardiness goes, I wouldn't buy anything from a producer who is unwilling to demonstrate that their operation owns up to at in least the minimum standards of sanitation their processing and storage.

 
At December 30, 2008 12:32 AM, Anonymous i smell a corporate whore said...

Those sources don't appear to be anywhere nearly as dubious as USDA's and FDA's associations with big chem and big ag or some bloggers who love gov control over personal decisions.

 
At December 30, 2008 7:33 AM, Anonymous Mairead said...

I didn't go to the article source, so I didn't realise til now that Sam was copying the Buckeye Institute's press release. I'd have been happier with a less-obviously-self-interested source for the report of what happened, and I'm sorry Sam wasn't able to provide one. Of course, there mightn't have been one to provide.

 
At December 30, 2008 12:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What you don't get 12:32, is that the Buckeye Institute is acting in the interests of agri-business' efforts to continually erode the organic standards, a source of vexation for legitimate producers.
Without accreditation, how can you know that the Stowers, or ConAgra for that matter, isn't farming on soil harboring DDT--the 'half-life' of DDT persistence in soil exceeds thirty years, it is still measurable in soils today. Land once devoted to apple production can be saturated with arsenic (once a control for fruit tree diseases)--arsenic in soil doesn't go away. A naive self-proclaimed 'organic' farmer could be working those lands with the best of intentions and, in reality, poisoning those who consume his goods. Oversight is not such a bad thing, or hasn't the calamity in the financial sector impressed you, yet?

 
At December 31, 2008 3:05 PM, Anonymous Mairead said...

I posted a followup, but somehow it vanished.

I looked around and, from the police report of the raid, it does appear to have been a "gestapo cowboy" operation.

The alleged offence was failure to have a licence, a bureaucratic, paperwork offence, not a crime in any usual sense.

Yet at least one of the cops was armed with a self-loading shotgun, either the same cop or another one (or more) was wearing a flak vest, and all were armed with pistols.

And they took everything, including cell phones - which don't seem to me to be the kind of device that would contain evidence of unlicenced retail activity.

Interestingly, there is apparent actual evidence of at least one retail transaction: sale to a shill. I'd think that would have been sufficient evidence to have made the raid unnecessary. Certainly a prostitute can be arrested and charged without having to proposition multiple cops. So what's the (legitimate) difference?

 
At December 31, 2008 4:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The alleged offence was failure to have a license, a bureaucratic, paperwork offence..."

Yeah, kinda like practicing medicine without a license is a bureaucratic, paperwork offence. It's misrepresentation and fraud, putting other people's lives in danger.

 

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